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Gasoline Politics

Angie Schmitt has been posting about gasoline quite a bit recently over at Streetsblog. Recently, she wrote about the public's disapproval with the president over prices, and how unfair that really is. From the post...
Frustratingly, leading Republicans are doing a pretty good job convincing the American public that the president can dictate prices at the pump, even while they propose a transportation policy that would only further entrench American gasoline dependence.
Well, yes and no. I don't think they're convincing anyone of anything. They're merely confirming an existing belief. Gasoline is the low-hanging fruit of politics, there's much to gain and not much risk in blindly accusing the president of being responsible when it gets expensive. The voting public clearly doesn't understand how this all works.

Media Matters compiled a clip of Bill O'Reiley talking points from 2008 where he defends then president Bush against the exact same attacks that these Republicans are now making against Obama. Frankly, this isn't surprising.

(from basykes on Flickr)

Sometimes I forget that gasoline is such a hot button issue. In DC, it seems to be less ferociously discussed, partly I think because people drive less on average (especially people in my circles); but also because the cost of living is so high that there's not a ton of sticker shock. Everything's expensive - gasoline included.

On the other hand, when I travel to Ohio, gasoline prices are easily the number one "small talk" topic. You can make conversation with just about anyone by opening with "how how about them gas prices, pretty outrageous, eh?" To which they'll usually respond by telling you how much they filled up for last week, and how outrageous it in fact was.

This isn't the first time gasoline prices have spiked. They spiked nearly 4 years ago - and that should have really been a slap-in-the-face, a wake-up call that life, as we know it, can't go on the way it has been. Even Mitt Romney was saying this back before he had to change his belief system in order to run for president. Yet, in many ways it's like we've learned nothing.

The president has made some comments about changing how we live, but generally, he's taking a very moderate position, touting new cars as a "solution" to this dilemma, for example. Republicans, on the other hand, have taken the easy road by blaming the president for everything and promising the world. Newt Gingrich says he can bring $2.50 gasoline back; but I seriously doubt he actually believes it.

But at the end of the day, what can even be done? Better voter education? Politicians will say whatever people want them to say. So long as they believe something, no matter how outrageous it is, politicians will talk about it.


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